Teen doesn't let disability prevent her from voting

Katelin Boykin has been eagerly awaiting Election Day 2012.

From the moment the teenager rolled her wheelchair to the TV in 2008 and watched President Obama deliver a victory speech to a roaring Chicago crowd, her heart hurt that she had been too young to vote.

Now that she is 19, casting a ballot Tuesday will be a milestone for Boykin beyond being a part of the effort to re-elect Obama. It is a move that shows the world, and herself, she has a voice.

Born with spina bifida myelomeningocele and having accepted she’ll use a wheelchair her whole life, there are things she has learned she might always have to watch from afar.

She has dreamed of being a photojournalist or a war correspondent, but the logistics of accomplishing those goals are still in the works.

Voting, though, has no impediments.

“Because my disorder is something I have no control over and has affected my life in ways I have no control over, voting is one thing you can do with whatever it is you have,” Boykin said. “That’s one thing that is your own.”

She has picked out an outfit she will wear to vote: an off-white wool sweater with a poodle on the front and a brown skirt, although as of Monday night, she was still undecided on the perfect shoes.

Her mother, Missy New, held off on voting early so she could cast a ballot alongside her daughter at their Cross Creek High School precinct.

“She is so excited,” New said. “She’s 19, but I swear to you, you’d think she’s 40. I’m 44 and she’ll make me stop and think, because it’s more than black-and-white to her. There’s a lot of gray area.”

Boykin said she developed an interest in politics when Obama was elected and she was old enough to understand the major political issues. As the 2012 campaign progressed, Obama began to impress her even more.

She watches newscasts, reads articles daily and has versed herself in everything from economics to domestic policy.

Obama’s stances on gay marriage, women’s rights and expansion of health care are what has impressed her most.

“He hasn’t been a perfect president, but I truly believe he’s a good man,” Boykin said. “I like his stance on social issues; he doesn’t want to de-fund Planned Parenthood; he’s been vocally supportive of gay marriage; I like his stance on education and health care ... he’s admirable.”

She listened to Gov. Mitt Romney’s pitch and considered his stance, but his approach is a little out of touch, Boykin said.

“It’s like he was born with a suit on,” New said.

Although Boykin and her mother see eye-to-eye, politics is a touchy subject in their household.

Because her stepfather and sister see things from the other side of the political aisle, the election is rarely discussed at dinner. When her sister, Sarah, voted last week, she came home with a smirk that said it all – which was not to talk about the next president.

Most of all, Boykin said she supports Obama because of his stance on health care – that all Americans should have the right to coverage. Having undergone more than 30 surgeries since she was 2-months-old, Boykin said she understands the need for affordable health care and would be living a different life if she didn’t have access to insurance.

But no matter who is elected, Boykin will be victorious Tuesday evening.

She will have photographs in her poodle sweater and sweet memories with her mother to prove it.

“His election last time was so big, and I felt a little left out,” Boykin said. “Now I’m just so excited. I’ll never forget it.”

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